(with the announcement by Senator Obama yesterday -- and to a lesser extent Tancredo -- we have quite a lively 2007 ahead of us with still more entrants to come. Good luck Obama. May the best man win.)
(from today's New York Times)
Obama Starts ’08 Bid, Reshaping Democratic Field
By JEFF ZELENY
WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 — Two years after arriving in Washington, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois made clear on Tuesday his intention to enter the Democratic presidential race, creating an exploratory committee while preparing to open a full-fledged campaign next month to become the nation’s first black president.
The announcement by Mr. Obama, his aides said, removed any doubt about his candidacy and ended weeks of speculation — fueled, in part, by the senator himself — that sent ripples through the ranks of other Democrats eyeing the presidential nomination. He said he would formally declare his intention to run on Feb. 10 in Springfield, Ill., the home of Abraham Lincoln.
“Our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common-sense way,” Mr. Obama said, speaking in a video address sent to his supporters. “Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can’t tackle the big problems that demand solutions.”
The video, which was also posted on Mr. Obama’s Web site, was a blue-sky plan of optimism, offering few specifics. It was designed to make the point that he — as opposed to any other Democratic candidate — was the fresh, unifying face of the party.
Mr. Obama, 45, became the sixth Democrat to enter the prospective field, joining Senators Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, former Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa and Representative Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, perhaps Mr. Obama’s biggest rival, is expected to join the race this month. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico said he would make his decision known soon, and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the party’s nominee in 2004, is also considering another run.
But in this early stage of the contest, one year before voters begin selecting a nominee, Mr. Obama’s candidacy changes the contours of the Democratic landscape. He is the only major candidate, at least among those from the Senate, who is not on record voting about whether to go to war with Iraq; when that vote was taken, he was in the Illinois Legislature, where he was a vocal opponent of the invasion.
Since then, though, Mr. Edwards has renounced his support of the war and become a stronger critic than Mr. Obama. And Mrs. Clinton, who has expressed skepticism about President Bush’s revised Iraq strategy, has struggled to convince many in the Democratic Party’s base that she has spoken out strongly enough.
While Mr. Obama does not have the burden of explaining his vote on the war resolution as other senators do, the lack of a Senate track record on other issues could prove damaging as he fends off inevitable criticism that he does not have the experience to be president.
“He may not have 40 years in politics, but he’s not exactly a child here,” said William J. Daley, a friend of Mr. Obama who served as commerce secretary in the Clinton administration. “He’s a well-established guy who knows a lot about the world.”
The dynamic among Mr. Edwards, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, not to mention other Democrats, is poised to touch off a curious scramble inside the party. Mr. Edwards is seeking to capture the economically disenfranchised or anxious class of voters, who might also find Mr. Obama appealing. At the same time, it remains an open question whether Mrs. Clinton will have competition for the moderate voters who provided a staple for her husband’s candidacy 15 years ago.
“One thing that I’m convinced of,” Mr. Obama said Tuesday evening as he left the Capitol, “is that people want something new.”
By now, the rapid trajectory of Mr. Obama is a well-established tale, with his rise from law professor to state senator to United States senator in less than a decade. He is the only African-American now serving in the Senate and only the third since Reconstruction.
But the next phase of his political development presents an even more intriguing storyline — as well as inviting closer scrutiny — as he discovers whether it is a blessing or a curse to embark on a presidential race carrying so many expectations.
“Running for the presidency is a profound decision, a decision no one should make on the basis of media hype or personal ambition alone,” Mr. Obama said in his video address, adding: “I certainly didn’t expect to find myself in this position a year ago.”
At 10:06 a.m. Tuesday, Mr. Obama filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to open a presidential exploratory committee. After disclosing his decision on his Web site — a friendly venue where he would face no questions — he immediately began making telephone calls to key Democratic leaders in states with early contests in the party’s 2008 nominating calendar.
Mike Gronstal, the Democratic leader of the Iowa Senate, said he received a courtesy call from Mr. Obama on Tuesday morning, the second time in less than a week that the two had spoken by telephone.
“I welcomed him to the race, and he said he’s definitely in,” Mr. Gronstal said in an interview. “I told him that in Iowa, to win people’s votes, you have to go through a lot of living rooms and answer a lot of questions. We put candidates through the paces, and we don’t jump early.”
In Washington, Mr. Obama’s announcement caused a stir among Democratic political operatives, who rushed to make inquiries about joining his campaign. A list of telephone numbers for local offices in Iowa, New Hampshire and Chicago — none of which have even opened yet — were being circulated via e-mail.
Mr. Obama intends to put the headquarters for his campaign operation in Chicago, which also would provide a major fund-raising base. But the senator was also reaching out to New York contributors, aides said, and intended to establish a fund-raising operation in the city.
Several Democratic fund-raisers in New York say privately that they have received phone calls from Mr. Obama in recent days and weeks, and at one point Mr. Obama had a brief conversation with Bill Lynch, a black Democratic political consultant who is close to Mrs. Clinton and was a top adviser to former Mayor David N. Dinkins.
“Senator Obama and I were supposed to get together, but I haven’t heard from him recently,” Mr. Lynch said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s too early right now to say who I would end up with, though. I’m a serious politician, and I would like to hear the compelling arguments.”
Then, he added, “I’m a real admirer of Senator Clinton’s.”
Advisers to Mrs. Clinton say her campaign timetable has not changed; she expects to make a decision in the next few weeks.
Mrs. Clinton did not take questions from reporters as she walked into the Senate chamber for a series of votes on Tuesday evening. At one point, she and Mr. Obama were barely a foot apart, but carried on conversations as though the other was not there.
As he left the Senate floor, Mr. Obama smiled when asked about the dynamic of the rival senators. “For me, at least,” he said, “I actually think it could be fun.”
Colorado Republican to Run
WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (Reuters) — Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado, a leading opponent of illegal immigration, said Tuesday that he would take the first step toward a long-shot bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.
Mr. Tancredo, 61, formed an exploratory committee to raise money for what he termed an “arduous and undeniably uphill battle” that would advance his views on overhauling immigration law.
Mr. Tancredo has been a leading voice in Congress against proposals for guest-worker programs and in favor of stronger border security to block illegal immigrants from Mexico.
He said he did not see any other presidential candidate in either party dedicated to a tough stance on immigration.
Mr. Tancredo, who visited the early caucus state of Iowa last weekend, is the eighth Republican to announce an exploratory presidential bid.
Patrick Healy contributed reporting from New York.